Monday, June 17, 2019
On June 13, 2019, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a bicameral group of Members of Congress in introducing the Citizenship Affordability Act, legislation to preserve and expand access to citizenship by ensuring legal residents who are eligible for naturalization, but struggling to afford its cost, can access waivers to reduce or eliminate fees associated with the process.
“As a first-generation immigrant, I know that you have to work hard to become a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, the high cost of the naturalization process can be a financial barrier for many legal permanent residents,” said Representative Torres.“The Citizenship Affordability Act would help make the process more affordable to keep the American dream within reach for everyone who earns it.”
“Becoming an American citizen should not depend on whether or not you can afford a costly application fee,” said Senator Menendez. “As the son of immigrants, I know how becoming an American citizen can strengthen families and improve lives. Citizenship promotes integration, civic responsibility, and a sense of community, which ultimately benefits all Americans. Yet for too many aspiring Americans, the cost of naturalization is a significant barrier to becoming a citizen. Our Citizenship Affordability Act will help bring down that barrier for future fellow citizens across the nation.”
Currently, aspiring American citizens eligible for naturalization are required to pay USCIS an application fee of $640 plus $85 biometric fee for a total of $725 per applicant. Those expenses can quickly snowball if people must pay for lawyers, English classes, and civics test preparation. If several family members are applying, costs multiply. Legal residents who earn less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level can apply for a full fee waiver and a reduced fee for those earning less than 200 percent. The fee waivers do not apply to those making between 200 and 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, many of whom still struggle to afford the fees associated with naturalization. USCIS is proposing changing the eligibility requirements for fee waivers and limit access to the naturalization fee waiver. This legislation would preserve and expand who is eligible for a fee waiver and ensure citizenship is affordable to all who are legally eligible to apply.
The Citizenship Affordability Act is supported by national and local organizations such as NALEO, UnidosUS, National Partnership for New Americans, Church World Service, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), American Friends Service Committee NJ, HIAS Pennsylvania, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, Refugee Women’s Alliance (Seattle, WA), Sunflower Community Action, Kansas People’s Action, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Nebraska Appleseed, Promise Arizona and Dream Big Nevada.